The STS-63 mission.
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Digitized, cataloged and archived by the Houston Audio Control Room, at the NASA Johnson Space Center.
Pad 39-B (32)
67th Shuttle Mission
20th Flight OV-103
Night Launch (10)
MIR Rendezvous / Fly around
1st Mission with Female Pilot
James D. Wetherbee (3), Commander
Eileen M. Collins (1), Pilot
C. Michael Foale (Ph.D.) (3), Mission Specialist
Janice E. Voss, Ph.D. (2), Mission Specialist
Bernard A. Harris, Jr., M.D.(2), Mission Specialist
Vladimar G. Titov (4), Cosmonaut
OPF -- 9/28/94
VAB -- 1/05/95
PAD -- 1/10/95
1/17/95 Start of Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT)
1/18/95 Flight Readiness Review
1/21/95 Load hypergolics
1/23/95 Hot fire APU No. 2
1/26/95 Ordnance install and hypergolic pressurization
1/27/95 Install and checkout spacesuits
1/29/95 Crew arrival for launch (12 midnight)
1/29/95 Begin S0007 Countdown procedure (4:30pm)
2/01/95 Begin 24-Hour Scrub Turnaround
SPACEHAB-3, Spartan-204, MIR-Rendezvous, CSE, GLO-2, ODERACS-II, IMAX, SSCE, AMOS, MSX
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For Additional Info on STS-63 go to:
STS-63's primary objective was to perform a rendezvous and fly around of the Russian space station MIR. The objectives of the MIR Rendezvous/Flyby are to verify flight techniques, communications and navigation aid sensor interfaces, and engineering analyses associated with Shuttle/Mir proximity operations in preparation for the STS-71 docking mission.
Other objectives of this flight are to perform the operations necessary to fulfill the requirements of experiments located in Spacehab-3 and to fly captively, then deploy and retrieve the Spartan-204 payload. Spartan-204, the Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy, is a free-flying retrievable platform. It is designed to obtain data in the far ultraviolet region of the spectrum from diffuse sources of light. Two crewmembers will also perform a five hour spacewalk.
Payloads flying aboard STS-63 include the Cryo Systems Experiment (CSE), the Shuttle Glow (GLO-2) experiment, Orbital Debris Radar Calibration Spheres (ODERACS-2), the Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE), the Air Force Maui Optical Site Calibration Test (AMOS) and the Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX).
Launch February 3, 1995 at 12:22:03.994am EST. Transatlantic abort (TAL) sites were setup at Zaragoza, Spain; Ben Guerir, Morocco and Moron, Spain but were not needed. MPS Main Engine cutoff was on schedule at MET of 8min 33 sec. A go was given for APU shutdown at 12:36am EST. There were two RCS thruster problems during launch. Thruster L2D failed and RCS R1U experienced a minor thruster leak during ascent. These jets have redundancy and are not expected to cause any violations with the MIR Rendezvous/Flyby RCS redundancy rules. One flight waiver was processed for upper level winds at Mach 1.4 in the event of a single MPS engine out. The SRB booster recovery ships are in the recovery area and have spotted the SRB's. Due to 9ft seas in the area, recovery operations are not expected to begin until daylight.
The launch was originally scheduled for February 2, 1995 at 12:49am EST but a 24 hour scrub turnaround was put into effect due to a failure in Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) #2. Although 3 IMU's are installed onboard the shuttle, if necessary, a flight can be accomplished with only one. The IMU's are located on the flight deck forward of the flight deck control and display panels. The failed unit was removed and replaced and the countdown was set to pick up at the T-11 hour mark at 8:31am EST 2/3/95. Launch window is 5 min. The actual launch time is expected to vary by several minutes based on new MIR state vectors for Shuttle rendezvous phasing requirements which will be updated an hour before launch.
Rollout to Pad 39-B occured 1/10/95. 1st motion was around 12:40 p.m. with hard down at around 8pm. The rollout to Pad 39-B was originally scheduled for 1/11/95 but was moved up one day when the pressure in a right hand orbital maneuvering system pod oxidizer manifold dropped from 150 psi to about 15 psi. The manifold serves 4 of the OMS thrusters on the right hand pod. One of these thrusters (R3A) has a documented very minor leak which was managed and controlled during the past two flights. However, from the time the orbiter left the OPF (1/5/95) to the time it was first powered up in the VAB , the manifold pressure dropped significantly. Engineers think this radical drop was caused by cold weather effects on the thruster's seal this past weekend. The manifold pressure was brought up to about 65 psi in the VAB, the maximum available with equipment in the VAB and after the rollout to the pad, the mainfold pressure was returned to the standard 150psi. Low pressure in the manifold over a period of time may cause other thruster seals to dry-out and leak.
On 1/12/95, it was decided to proceed with plans to replace the leaking thruster on the right hand orbital maneuvering system pod. On 1/19/95, workers replaced both leaking thrusters (R3A and R3R) and leak checks are complete and good. Also, a faulty seal and quick disconnect on Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) No. 2 was successfully replaced.
Inclination: 51.6 degrees
Duration: 8 days, 6 hours, 28 minutes, 15 seconds.
Distance: 2,992,806 miles
ET : SN-68
MLP : 2
KSC February 11, 1995 at 6:51 a.m EST on Shuttle Landing Facility Runway 15.
On flight day one (2/03/95) at 9:20am EST, Commander James D. Wetherbee performed a 39sec OMS burn to place it on a intercept course with the Russian MIR Space Station. At that time, Discovery was located 7000nm behind MIR at an altitude of 190nm. Payloads in the middeck and in the SpaceHab module were powered up and the RMS arm was checked out.
On Friday, Feb 3, 1995 at 6:30 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 1 reports that flight controllers were troubleshooting a problem with AFT RCS thruster R1U which has a slow leak of 2-3lbs/hr. Though thruster leaks are a common occurrence, the leaky jet is slightly more of a concern for STS-63 because of the Mir rendezvous. Flight rules for mission dictate that Discovery must have all its aft firing thrusters operational before it moves within 1,000 feet of Mir. In past missions, leaks frequently cleared themselves once the jets were warmed by either thruster firings or the sun. Subsequently, flight controllers asked Commander James D. Wetherbee to position the orbiter so that sun would shine on the top side of the vehicle for several hours to help warm up the leaking jet. Currently, controllers are proceeding with the rendezvous as planned but will continue to watch the leak.
Checkouts of the robot arm also went smoothly. The arm will be used later in the mission to position and deploy the Spartan-204 payload for its far ultraviolet measurements of the space phenomena.
On Friday, Feb 3, 1995 at 1:15 p.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 2 states: The leaking RCS thruster is losing between 1-2 pounds of propellant every hour, a manageable loss according to mission managers. Temperatures on the thruster remain constant at about 54 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, controllers may have to close a manifold that supplies propellant to the leaking jet. Closing that valve would preclude the use of another healthy maneuvering jet which is to be used for close-in maneuvering around Mir. In that case, Discovery would not maneuver any closer than 1,000 feet from Mir.
Crew members also activated the SPACEHAB module and began working with the experiments housed inside. Twenty different experiments ranging from protein crystal growth to a robotics demonstration comprise the STS-63 SPACEHAB payload complement. The astronauts also conducted a photographic survey of Discovery's payload bay using the shuttle's robot arm.
On Saturday, Feb 4, 1995 at 8:30 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 3 states: One of the first tasks for the crew during its second day is space was to deploy the Orbital Debris and Radar Calibration Spheres, or ODERACS, from a canister in the shuttle's cargo bay. The three spheres and three wire strands, all of varying sizes and composition, were released from Discovery on time at about 10:57 p.m. CST Friday and will be used to fine-tune ground radars and optics worldwide that track space debris. The spheres and wires may remain in orbit for times ranging from as short as 20 days to 280 days.
Mission Specialist and Russian Cosmonaut Vladimir Titov later used the shuttle's mechanical arm to lift the SPARTAN-204 satellite from the cargo bay shortly after midnight for several hours of studying the shuttle glow phenomenon and shuttle steering jet firings. Shuttle glow is an effect created by the interaction of the shuttle's surfaces with atomic oxygen in low Earth orbit and is being observed on the mission by the Far Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer aboard SPARTAN. Following the conclusion of the SPARTAN-204 operations, the satellite was latched down in the payload bay.
Throughout the day, Discovery has continued to close the distance with Mir at a rate of about 180 nautical miles with each orbit. Discovery is now in an orbit of 200 by 182 nautical miles, about 4,400 miles behind Mir. One of Discovery's steering jets continues to slowly leak propellant.
On Saturday, Feb 4, 1995 at 4:30 p.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 4 states: On the ground, flight controllers are assessing plans for up-close maneuvers with Mir after a forward reaction control system thruster (RCS thruster F1F) on Discovery began leaking during a hot fire test earlier today. The thruster's oxidizer supply line has been closed and Discovery has been maneuvered to a nose-toward-the-sun attitude to warm the thruster. Flight controllers report they are seeing a gradual increase in temperature on the forward jet. Throughout the evening, flight controllers will continue to look at what effect the failure may have on the planned rendezvous as well as their options for restoring thruster operations.
On Sunday, Feb 5, 1995 at 7:30 a.m. CST, the Mission Update status briefing reported that the problem with forward RCS thruster F1F is now resolved. Previously it was leaking at the rate of 3-5lbs per hour. The forward part of the shuttle was placed in sunlight and allowed to head up and RCS manifold #1 was turned off. In an attempt to stop the leak, Commander James D. Wetherbee and Pilot Eileen M. Collins closed and reopened the manifold of the leaky thruster several times. Pressure was allowed to build up in the manifold and then the manifold was open and the thruster commanded to fire. This cleared out any residual fuel left in the thruster and stopped the leak. This same procedure was repeated on the leaking AFT R1U thruster to no avail. At this time, Discovery 2000nm behind MIR and closing at a rate of 190nm per orbit. The next orbital burn is scheduled for approximately 1:39pm EST.
On Sunday, Feb 5, 1995 at 10 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 5 reports: Discovery is expected to catch up with the Russian space station Monday morning, but mission managers are still discussing how close the orbiter will come to the Mir. The original plan calls for Discovery to come within 33 feet of the Mir complex, but because of a leaking steering thruster, controllers also are looking at back-up plans for having the shuttle fly around Mir at a distance of 400 feet. Mission managers in both countries are continuing to work toward a consensus.
Meanwhile in the SPACEHAB module, activities with its 20 experiments are progressing smoothly. Among those activities, crew members tested a small robot called Charlotte. Designed by McDonnell Douglas Aerospace, Charlotte is designed to service other experiments in the absence of the crew. The robot moves along cables and has the capability to change experiment samples and perform many routine procedures. The crew also activated an experiment that studies how materials burn in weightlessness. In this instance, the Solid Surface Combustion Experiment is examining how Plexiglas burns.
On Sunday, Feb 5, 1995 at 5 p.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 6 reports: Commander Jim Wetherbee and Pilot Eileen Collins closed and reopened the jet manifold several times in an attempt to stop the leak, but those attempts were not successful. Shortly before the crew went to sleep, the manifold was closed. The crew will receive a wake-up call at 11:21 p.m. CST to begin Flight Day 4. Discovery is in a 208 by 197 nautical mile orbit, less than 1,000 nautical miles behind Mir and closing that distance by about 78 miles with each orbit.
On Monday, Feb 6, 1995 at 7 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 7 reports: Discovery's crew has begun preparations for a close encounter with the Russian Mir space station this afternoon, although two possible plans for the rendezvous exist -- one that would have Discovery move to about 35 feet from Mir at its closest point and another that would have Discovery remain about 400 feet from Mir.
Regardless of how close Discovery approaches the station, for either plan, Discovery will fire its engines at 8:16 a.m. central and again at 9:02 a.m. central in maneuvers designed to decrease the present rate -- 79 nautical miles per orbit -- that the shuttle is closing in on the station. Next, Discovery will fire its engines at 10:37 a.m. central, when the shuttle is about 8 nautical miles from Mir, to begin the final phase of the rendezvous. Discovery will arrive at a point about 400 feet directly in front of Mir at 12:16 p.m. central.
For the plan which has Discovery stay 400 feet from Mir, the shuttle would then begin a flyaround of Mir at 1:30 p.m., circling the station completely by about 2:16 p.m. and firing its engines to depart the vicinity of the station at 2:28 p.m. Under a plan where Discovery would approach to 35 feet from Mir, Discovery would reach that closest point to the station at 1:20 p.m. The shuttle would then back away and reach a point 400 feet distant again at about 2 p.m.. Discovery would begin a flyaround of Mir from a distance of 400 feet at 2:26 p.m., completing the circle and firing its engines to separate from the vicinity at 3:13 p.m.
Which plan will ultimately be used depends on an evaluation of a leaking right aft maneuvering jet aboard Discovery that is on going by both shuttle flight controllers and Mir flight controllers. A final decision is expected as the morning progresses, although both rendezvous plans are identical until 12:16 p.m. central, the time when Discovery arrives a a point 400 feet from Mir.
On Monday, February 6, 1995 at 8:23am, Commander James D. Wetherbee and Pilot Eileen M. Collins performed a minor orbital burn (NH burn) that adjusted Discovery's altitude and places the oribiter about 48nm behind MIR. The burn lasted 13 sec (8.6ft/sec). Vladimar G. Titov began 2-way raido communications with MIR via a special hand-held VHF radio. First radio contact was made at about 550,000ft.
The 8sec NC-4 burn occured at 9:02am CST with Discovery at 48nm away from MIR. This places the orbiter in position for the NCC-burn. The NCC-burn is the first burn calculated by onboard computers using onboard navigation derived from orbiter star tracker sightings) After the NCC-burn, the TI-Burn puts Discovery into the final phase of rendezvous at 8nm behind MIR. This will start Dicovery on an arc that will take it below MIR.
On Monday, Feb 6, 1995 at 9:30 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 8 reports: Discovery's crew was given a "go" to fly within 35 feet of the Russian Mir space station at 9:25 a.m. CST.
F. Story Musgrave communicated to the crew that flight controllers worked out a plan that will give them a GO to approach MIR to 10 Meters. The rules setup with this plan require 3 conditions; 1) That the right RCS Manifold #1 providing fuel to the leaking R1U thruster be closed before 300 meters; 2) That Discovery approach no closer than 10meters; and 3) That in the event of any further loss of "Low Z" RCS thruster capability, that the crew open the closed manifold, back out to 400ft and hold position.
Discovery fired its engines at 8:16 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. CST in maneuvers that decreased the rate that the shuttle is closing in on the station. At 2/6/95 at 11:38 CST, Discovery is 2nm away from MIR closing the distance at 19ft/sec. The 3rd mid-course correction was successful at 11:41 CST and Discovery is now closing at 16.5ft/sec. Cosmonauts on MIR reported that they were able to see Discovery's RCS jets firing. At 11:48am CST, with Discovery and MIR flying above and just north of Hawaii. Discovery was 1.3nm away from MIR, nose pointing forward with the payload bay pointing towards MIR. Discovery was moving toward MIR at 9ft/sec. At 11:59am CST Discovery was about 1700ft from MIR and moving at 3ft/sec. Cosmonauts onboard MIR report that they were able to see commander James D. Wetherbee waving in the orbiter windows.
At 2/6/95 at 12:06 CST (.9ft/sec and 960ft from MIR), Discovery switched to a Low-Z attitude mode that restricts RCS thrusters firings that point away from the MIR space station. Discovery is slightly in front of and below MIR. At 12:22pm CST, Discovery matched the velocity vector of MIR and linked up orbits at 422ft. Both Discovery and MIR downlinked video of each other from close proximity. Discovery station kept at this location for about 1 hour before moving in to closest approach at 10meters. Closest approach with MIR occured at 13:23pm CST while Discovery was over the Pacific Ocean and at an altitude of 213 nautical. It lasted for 10 min.
On Monday, Feb 6, 1995 at 5 p.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 9 reports: "As we are bringing our space ships closer together, we are bringing our nations closer together," said STS-63 Commander Jim Wetherbee after Discovery reached the point of closest approach. "The next time we approach, we will shake your hand and together we will lead our world into the next millennium."
Wetherbee reported that Discovery performed well during the operations. The orbiter's performance, he said, was identical to that of the flight simulators the crew trained in. Mir Commander Alexander Viktrenko reported that the orbiter's thruster firing did not affect the Mir's solar arrays. All insights collected today will be used to refine planning for the first time a shuttle docks with Mir later this year.
The close approach operations went as planned and achieved a distance of 37 feet between the top of the SPACEHAB module and the surface of the MIR module. Discovery then backed out to 400 feet and started MIR/Fly around operations. At 3:13pm CST Discovery initiated the burn that would seperate Discovery from MIR. As the two spacecraft seperated, Discovery gathered data that will be used for the MIR Docking approach on STS-71. On 2/6/95 at 5:23pm CST Discovery was seperated from MIR and orbiting the earth at 214nmx207nm,
Discovery had been slowly closing the distance between it and Mir since a few hours after it reached orbit. Today, the final phase of rendezvous brought the orbiter from behind the Russian station to a point about 400 feet in front it. Discovery then moved down the velocity vector (an imaginary line extending in the direction of travel of a space vehicle) toward Mir. After reaching the point of closest approach over the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of 213 nautical miles and maintaining that position for 10 minutes, Discovery moved away from Mir and initiated a fly-around of the station.
On Tuesday, Feb 7, 1995 at 8 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 10 and PAO commentary on NASA Select reports: As Discovery was over Brazil, it prepared to release the Spartan 204 payload. The RCS jets were inhibited and the Remote Manipulator System (RMS) Robot arm was placed in its derigidized position. Mission Specialist and Russian Cosmonaut Vladimir G. Titov released the Spartan 204 satellite and its Far Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph instrument from the shuttle's mechanical arm on time at 6:26 a.m. central. At 6:31am CST, Commander James D. Wetherbee backed Discovery away and Vladimar G. Titov confirmed that Spartan was in good health by reporting the satellite has performed its first solo maneuvers. Discovery will move away from Spartan 204 at about 4nm per orbit.
The Spartan 204 satellite will spend about two days flying free of Discovery, studying the gas and dust that fills space between stars and planets. Spartan's observations will be recorded aboard the satellite for analysis by scientists after Discovery's return to Earth. The satellite will be retrieved by the orbiter's robot arm Thursday just prior to a spacewalk by Mission Specialists Bernard Harris and Mike Foale.
On Tuesday, Feb 7, 1995 at 5 p.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 11 reports: Discovery's fifth day in space has come to a close as the STS-63 crew turns its attention from rendezvousing with a Russian space station to scientific investigations, satellites and spacewalks. Crew members continued working with the 20 experiments residing in the Spacehab module. The experiments -- which represent a diverse cross-section of technological, biological and other scientific disciplines -- include plant studies, crystal growth studies and a robotic experiment.
Just before the crew turned in, flight controllers faxed several pictures taken from video sent by Mir during the rendezvous activities Monday. The pictures showed how Discovery looked to the Mir crew while it approached the Russian station.
On Wednesday, Feb 8, 1995 at 6 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 12 reports: Discovery's crew focused on preparations today -- for a spacewalk planned for Thursday and the shuttle's return to Earth planned for Saturday morning.
Payload Commander Bernard A. Harris and Mission Specialist C. Michael Foale spent several hours this morning unstowing and checking the spacesuits they'll use tomorrow for a five hour spacewalk. The spacewalk will evaluate the warmth provided by thermal garments added to the spacewalkers' gear and as well as the astronauts' ability to maneuver large objects, in this case, the Spartan satellite. Harris and Foale reported the suits and other gear are in excellent shape and ready for the spacewalk.
Also, Commander James D. Wetherbee and Pilot Eileen M. Collins checked out the flight control systems Discovery will use for landing. The cockpit displays and controls, navigation aids and the shuttle's aerosurfaces were tested and found in excellent shape as well.
On Wednesday, Feb 8, 1995 at 2 p.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 13 reports: Commanders of two space vehicles talked about their missions and their historic rendezvous in space today during a special ship-to-ship conversation from the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Russian Space Station Mir.
STS-63 Commander James D. Wetherbee and Mir Commander Alexander Viktorenko spoke through an interpreter in Houston's Mission Control Center. The conversation focused on the missions of the two crews and the success of their rendezvous on Monday. Wetherbee said he especially enjoyed the point in the joint operations when Mir maneuvered to a new attitude while Discovery was circling it. "It was like dancing in the cosmos," Wetherbee said. "It was great." The commanders also said they were looking forward to meeting each other on Earth and exchanged compliments about the two space vehicles and the teams that designed them. "Together our programs will be even better," Wetherbee said.
The six crew members officially began their eight-hour sleep period at 1:52 p.m. Central. When they wake for their seventh day in space, Mission Specialists Bernard A. Harris and C. Michael Foale will begin preparing for their four and a half hour spacewalk. Harris and Foale will test improvements in their spacesuits and perform several mass handling exercises. The two spacewalkers checked out their suits earlier today and confirmed that they were ready for Thursday's activities.
The spacewalk will begin around 6 a.m. Central, shortly after the retrieval of the Spartan-204 satellite. Spartan has been flying free of Discovery since Tuesday morning, collecting data on the interstellar medium.
On Thursday, Feb 9, 1995 at 6:30 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 14 reports: Discovery's crew performed the second rendezvous of the mission today and are now in the midst of a spacewalk in one of the busiest days ever aboard a Space Shuttle.
Commander James D. Wetherbee and Pilot Eileen M. Collins flawlessly eased the shuttle to the Spartan-204 satellite this morning, which had been released from Discovery on Tuesday, to allow astronaut Janice E. Voss to capture it using the mechanical arm. Voss locked on to the satellite and its cargo of research on the material in interstellar space at 5:33 a.m. CST as Discovery flew 240 miles above the Pacific Ocean south of the Aleutian Islands.
While free-flying from Discovery, Spartan's Far Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph gathered more than 40 hours of observations to study the interstellar medium, the gas and dust that fills space between stars and planets and of which new such bodies are formed.
Just after the satellite was captured, crewmates C. Michael Foale and Bernard A. Harris began a five-hour spacewalk to test new thermal devices designed to warm their spacesuits and evaluate how well they can manipulate the 3,000-pound Spartan-204 satellite in weightlessness. Harris became the first African-American to walk in space as the EVA started at 5:56 a.m. CST.
On Thursday, Feb 9, 1995 at 3 p.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 15 reports: Two of Discovery's astronauts performed at 4 hour, 39 minute, spacewalk to test modifications in their spacesuits and gain experience in handling large masses in space.
Mission Specialists Bernard A. Harris and C. Michael Foale floated into Discovery's payload bay shortly after 6 a.m. Central to begin the shuttle program's 29th spacewalk. After arranging their tools in the payload bay, Harris and Foale were lifted out of the payload bay on the robot arm to evaluate how well new space suit undergarments would keep them warm.
For the test, Mission Specialist Vladimir C. Titov positioned the arm so that the two spacewalkers were high above and away from the relative warmth of the payload bay. They stayed in position for about 15 minutes, subjectively rating their comfort levels while sensors in their gloves collected objective data that will be compared to temperatures taken of the space environment around them.
For the second part of the spacewalk, Harris conducted a mass handling exercise with the Spartan-204 satellite to gain experience in moving large objects on orbit. While Harris was finishing his portion of the exercise, both astronauts reported that their hands were beginning to get cold. Flight controllers subsequently decided to cancel Foale's mass handling tasks and end the spacewalk early.
Harris and Foale re-entered Discovery's airlock and finished their spacewalk around 10:30 a.m. Central. All the information collected during the extravehicular activity will be used to refine and develop spacewalk techniques and systems for future shuttle and International Space Station EVAs.
As the spacewalk was beginning, Mission Specialist Janice E. Voss was using the robot arm to pluck the Spartan-204 satellite from orbit and secure it in the payload bay. Spartan-204 had been flying free of Discovery for two days, collecting information on the material in interstellar space.
On Friday, Feb 10, 1995 at 7 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 16 reports: Discovery's crew began powering off experiments and packing up the shuttle cabin in preparation for Saturday's trip home. Two final observations were performed during the morning with the GLO experiment, a study of the glowing effect created as the shuttle's surfaces interact with atomic oxygen in orbit. Commander James D.Wetherbee and Pilot Eileen M. Collins fired Discovery's steering jets to allow the experiment to observe their effect on the glow.
On Friday, Feb 10, 1995 at 3 p.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 17 reports: Shuttle astronauts got one last look at the Russian Space Station Mir before they return home Saturday, a fitting end to Discovery's historic 20th flight. At about 12:35 p.m. Central, Mir performed an on-orbit maneuver during which STS-63 crew members reported that they could see the station near the horizon as it trailed behind the orbiter at a distance of 850 nautical miles. To Discovery's payload bay cameras, Mir looked like a small flashing star. The sighting occurred as crew members were in the last stages of putting away their experiments and equipment to configure the orbiter for Saturday's trip back to Earth.
Discovery is scheduled to land at Florida's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Saturday, firing its engines at 4:44 a.m. CST to lead to a touchdown at about 5:51 a.m. CST. The weather forecast for Florida is currently favorable for the landing, although flight controllers will be watching a possibility of low clouds and strong winds there closely as the forecast is continually updated. Florida's weather is forecast to deteriorate on Sunday.
Two other landing opportunities exist for Discovery Saturday at Edwards Air Force Base, Ca., as well. The first, which is unlikely to be used since it occurs prior to the first Florida opportunity, would have the shuttle fire its engines at 4:38 a.m. CST leading to a touchdown at 5:43 a.m. CST. The second opportunity for Edwards occurs one orbit after the Florida opportunity and would have Discovery fire its engines at 6:13 a.m. CST leading to a touchdown at 7:19 a.m. CST. Edward's weather is forecast to be excellent for a landing Saturday , and managers may opt to land there if Florida's weather prohibits a landing. Discovery also has backup landing opportunities available in both Florida and California on Sunday.
On Saturday, Feb 11, 1995 at 7 a.m. CST, STS-63 MCC Status Report # 18 reports: The Shuttle Discovery swooped to a dawn landing at the Kennedy Space Center this morning on time to complete an historic eight-day mission highlighted by the first rendezvous by a Shuttle with the Mir Space Station. Commander Jim Wetherbee and Pilot Eileen Collins guided Discovery to a textbook touchdown on KSC's Runway 15 at 5:51 AM CST to complete a 2,992, 806 million mile mission spanning 129 complete orbits of the Earth, the 20th flight for Discovery.
With nearly perfect weather at KSC awaiting him and his crewmates, Wetherbee fired Discovery's orbital maneuvering system engines to enable Discovery to drop out of its orbit for an hour-long descent through the Earth's atmosphere. Discovery cut a blazing path through the pre-dawn skies over the heartland of America as it raced toward its Florida landing site.
Live television pictures of the landing were transmitted to the Russian Mission Control Center in Kaliningrad, Russia, where flight controllers beamed them up to the three cosmonauts travelling aboard the Mir Space Station.
Less than an hour after completing their flight, Discovery's astronauts left their vehicle for post-landing medical exams and reunions with their families. The astronauts returned to Houston's Ellington Field for a welcoming ceremony at 5:30pm CST.